When expressing an opinion on transatlantic relationships, it is best to resist two temptations. The first is to take delight in the numerous formal declarations that have punctuated the past thirty years. Welcome though they are, they serve more as reminders of the friendship and goodwill between America and Europe than as specific commitments likely to be fulfilled. The second is to focus on the trade disputes which are continuously fuelling our quarrels and souring the atmosphere in both Washington and Brussels.
As a European, I am aware of the extent of the responsibilities shouldered by the United States as a world superpower. I can measure the extraordinary difficulty of some of the choices this country has to make, in response to events or manifest threats to its citizens and world security. The great American nation’s priorities depend on numerous variables, and I do not mean to suggest that the sole issue of concern is the relationship between the United States and the European Union. The latter must retain a modest approach to world problems.
This modesty should not go so far, however, as to ignore the Europeans’ share of responsibility in managing global issues. Nor should it conceal the economic, trading and financial strengths of the EU. The European Union, it should be remembered, is the largest public-sector donor for development and humanitarian aid. It also devotes significant resources to supporting economic adjustment in the central and eastern European countries.